Harry “Sweets” Edison was born October 10, 1915 in Columbus. He spent his early childhood in Kentucky, where he was introduced to music by an uncle. After moving back to Columbus at the age of 12, the young Edison began playing the trumpet with local bands.
In 1933 he became a member of the Jeter-Pillar Orchestra in Cleveland and after a year moved to New York and joined the Count Basie Orchestra. His colleagues included Buck Clayton, Lester Young (who named him “Sweets”), Buddy Tate, Freddie Green, Jo Jones and other original members of that famous band.
“Sweets” Edison came to prominence as a soloist with the Basie Band and as an occasional composer/arranger for the band. He also appeared in the 1944 film ‘Jammin’ The Blues’.
When the Basie Band temporarily disbanded in 1950, Edison pursued a varied career as leader of his own groups, traveling with Jazz at the Philharmonic and freelancing with other orchestras. In the early 1950’s, he settled on the West Coast and became a highly sought after studio musician, making important contributions to recordings by such artists as Billie Holiday, Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald.
According to the “Encyclopedia of Jazz in the ’70’s”, Edison in the ’60’s and ’70’s, continued to work in many orchestras on TV shows, including ‘Hollywood Palace’ and ‘Leslie Uggams Show’, specials with Frank Sinatra; prominently featured on the sound track and in the sound track album of the film, ‘Lady Sings the Blues’. From ’73 Edison acted as Musical Director for Redd Foxx on theatre dates, at concerts and in Las Vegas. For the past two decades he has appeared frequently in Europe and Japan until shortly before his demise, July 27, 1999. As LAJI’s first Tribute Honoree, “Sweets” will always have a special place in our hearts.